I Am Not Sure if I Would Have a Cat if I Knew It Would Grow to Be Over 55lbs.

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A while back I wrote about my adventures in dog-sitting. In that post, I mentioned how I had never had a dog, and how, once-upon-a-time, big dogs even scared me a little. It now looks like I have signed myself up for a life-long version of immersion therapy.

Meet “Lina”.

Mrs Dog Dobalina

This is a false representation. She is rarely, if ever, this still.

Her full name is Mrs. Dog Dobalina, in homage to The Monkees’ song, “Zilch” (although my fiancé chooses to reference “Mistadobalina” by Del Tha Funkee Homosapian, which is clearly a homage to the ORIGINAL “Zilch” song- but whatever.) She is a Belgian Malinios, a breed very similar to the German Shepherd, but slightly is smaller in her final form. At this point she is 18wks and the heavy side of 30lbs. I have nicknamed her “Tank”, as her best descriptor would be “incredibly solid and oblivious to objects around her”. This includes people, furniture, cabinetry, walls, doors, the cats- pretty much anything in general. She bounces and shakes off the impact like it was nothing. Luckily walls do not bruise, and the cats are pretty good at holding their own.

Man Down

He didn’t stand a chance against “The Tank”.

Things that I have learned about having a puppy so far:

  1. They have to go to the bathroom- A LOT. And sometimes even they don’t realize that they need to go until the moment they do (on the oriental rug).
  2. You realize how much attachment you have for material things based on your reaction to the puppy chewing on it. (But I LOVED that toy that I don’t even remember where it came from or when the last time was that I even acknowledged its existence!)
  3. No matter how many toys she has within her reach, if you are not playing with her, she is BORED.
  4. It is rarely a good sign if she is Too Quiet (see #1)
  5. Similar to children and cats, the most favorite toy is often the packaging of something else.

    Box o Lina

    Yep- This is my dog, Folks.

  6. Dog farts are horrible, which can be good a good thing, as I have already adopted the practice of blaming any and all farts on the dog. So far, she has been OK with this.
  7. Awkward puppies are pretty much the best thing ever. Exhausted puppies are just below that.
  8. If you have a smart puppy, there is a very high chance that you also have a very (very) stubborn puppy.
  9. Puppy teeth are some of the sharpest objects on earth.
  10. If it is dead and decaying, a puppy will find it and try to eat it, or roll in it. Same thing goes for all poop. (Lina is becoming a connoisseur in that area. Currently she prefers duck and deer poop, but she will branch out as the situation dictates.)

The whole “training” thing has been an interesting process, as my cats more trained me than the other way around. First, I’ve had to butcher learn commands in a completely different language, as you wouldn’t want some stranger to be able to tell your dog to “roll-over” at the drop of a hat, would you? (Of course not. Those are family tricks!) Second, I’ve been trying to learn how to be the “alpha-dog” to her. I now have more empathy for parents with toddlers who are learning to push their boundaries. “If you didn’t see me do it, then you don’t KNOW that I did it, right?” (Cue the puppy-dog eyes, which, by the way, STILL do not work on me, so tough luck there, Lina.)

Puppy Dog Eyes

No matter how many versions she tries, I refuse to melt (usually).

I know that she has learned (and grown!) so much in the 6 weeks that we have had her, so I have to remind myself that despite of all her progress she is still a very energetic and distracted puppy. One whose first reaction is to give puppy kisses, and want you to play tug-of-war and get belly rubs, and contort herself in funny ways when she outruns the ball.

Tuckered out

There are occasions where I question if she actually has all her bones.

As long as she understands that I will always take the cat’s side, then I think we will get along OK.

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A Lesson in Physics (and totally not having anything to do with an imaginary ghost)

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I never fully appreciated simple act of bipedal locomotion until I made the flawed decision to carry a padded bench down a flight of carpeted stairs while wearing socks. Up until this point in my life, I have been remarkably lucky in avoiding any sort of serious injury. I’d had my fair share of bruises and scrapes, but nothing that caused more than a slight inconvenience in my daily life. (Side note here: Chris has also hurt his foot at about the same point of the stairs, leading us to believe not that there is a physical flaw in the stairs themselves, but rather that an imaginary ghost that haunts the bathroom under the stairs is upset with the length of time it is taking us to complete stripping the wallpaper in there. But seriously, imaginary ghost- cut us a break! The previous owner had papered the whole thing in TWO LAYERS of the SAME PAPER! Geez!)

My ill-fated tumble, resulting in a badly sprained ankle, occurred a few days before the collection of 20-odd family and friends were to descend on me the fiance for our first Thanksgiving in our new home. I went from a highly productive (and not quite frantic) hostess to stuck on the sofa with my foot propped up as I attempted to 1) figure out what still needed to be done, and 2) delegate ALL OF THE THINGS.

As a person who is often better at demonstrating how to accomplish a task while describing what to do; to not see what was taking place in the next room and being left with not only just my words was initially a challenge to my verbal skills. I quickly realized, however, how well I remembered my new house. I became quickly adept at searching my memory and recalling where a potential centerpiece item might be found, or an obscure baking tool could be located. Not being able to get up and just walk over to the pantry when I received a call from those on grocery store run led me to search my memory “ Did we still have any pecans?” (The correct answer was “yes”, but really you can never have too many pecans.)

And while this year’s Thanksgiving was a bit of “Trial by Fire” in its own way, the household as a whole passed relatively unscathed. The difficult part has been the day-to-day that I normally take for granted: taking clean laundry back upstairs, for example. Another is trying to run errands, where there is a lot of walking and standing in line involved. I have new-founded empathy for those with canes and crutches that I’ve seen struggling along side me in the Pre-Christmas shopping rush.

The biggest lesson I am learning through this whole experience is how to now ask for help (and not just vaguely mention that some assistance at some point would be appreciated). This can be difficult to do when it is for something you were only recently able to do for yourself, and it reminded me how so many of the consumers we saw were reluctant to both ask for and accept offered help. But we can all use help, in one way or another, because we are always making choices that put in positions that we just cannot deal with alone. In one small decision, one small choice of action, I found myself at the mercy of both my own body and the assistance of those around me. The experience has been a humbling adjustment. (No thanks to you, imaginary bathroom ghost.)

You have really pretty hair

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“You have really pretty hair.”

This was not the statement that my friend expected to hear at that moment. Not from her therapist. Especially not in the middle of a rather emotional counseling session.

Sometimes it can be very difficult to know how to respond to a consumer (client, patient- they are all the same, but for my purposes I will be referring to them as consumers or cons throughout) during a particularly emotional session. But as counselors, therapists, and social workers, we have been trained on how to be empathetic to our consumers’ needs; even if that response is just a non-verbal one. We strive to help our consumers feel as if they are in a safe environment, where they can open up and be heard. And while there are some situations where a consumer might try to take advantage of that empathy (some cons with borderline personality disorder come directly to mind), as professionals we seek to respond to these situations in a manner that will hopefully allow the cons to become more open and honest with him or herself. This alteration allowing the cons to process the root of their issues, rather than just the issues they continue to create.

So while it is often human nature to freeze-up or become verbally inept when confronted with emotional or confrontational situations, it is important for us to remember that there is another human on the other side of that exchange.

So when this professional therapist interrupted my friend and her emotional disclosure to give an out-of-context compliment of her hair, it lead my friend to wonder if that therapist even knew what empathy meant. With one little phrase, that session, and any future sessions with that therapist, was effectively over.